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Some Hard Spiritual Truths That Will Set You Free. A Meditation on a Teaching from St. John of the Cross

October 20, 2013 70 Comments

I have written before on Five Hard Truths That Will Set You Free. In this post I would like to ponder Some Hard Spiritual truths that will set us free.

In calling them “hard truths,” I mean that they are not the usual cozy bromides that many seek. They speak bluntly about the more irksome and difficult realities we confront. But, if we come to accept them, they have a strange way of bringing serenity by getting us focused on the right things, instead of chasing after false dreams.

For it sometimes happens that a person can spend his whole life being resentful that life isn’t peachy, forgetting all the while that we are in exile, that we are making a hard journey, we pray,  to a life where, one day,  every sorrow and difficultly is removed, and death and sorrow are no more. But not now.

There is a kind of unexpected serenity in living in the world as it is, rather than resenting the world for not being what we want it to be. For now, the journey is hard and we have to be sober about our obtuse desires and destructive tendencies. And that is why there is a value in calling these insights, “hard truths that will set us free.”

In the very opening section of his Spiritual Canticle, St. John of the Cross lays out a presumed worldview that the spiritually mature ought to have attained. And because he presumes it of his reader, he states it only briefly.

Yet, for us who live in times not known for spiritual maturity, we ought to slow down for a moment and ponder these truths which are not only poorly understood, but even actively resisted today by many who call themselves wise and spiritually mature.

Remember now, these are hard truths, and many today wish to bypass the harder teachings of God. Thus we do well to pay special attention to a Spiritual Master who is deeply immersed in Scripture, as a remedy for the soft excesses of our modern times.

Lets first look at the quote from St. John and then, by way of a list, examine his points. With this preamble of sorts, St. John begins his Spiritual Canticle:

The soul… has grown aware of her obligations and observed that life is short (Job 14:5), the path leading to eternal life constricted (Mt. 7:14), the just one scarcely saved (1 Pet. 4:18), the things of the world vain and deceitful (Eccles. 1:2), that all comes to an end and fails like falling water (2 Sam. 14:14), and that the time is uncertain, the accounting strict, perdition very easy, and salvation very difficult. She knows on the other hand of her immense indebtedness to God for having created her solely for Himself, and that for this she owes Him the service of her whole life; and because He redeemed her solely for Himself she owes Him every response of love. She knows, too, of the thousand other benefits by which she has been obligated to God from before the time of her birth, and that a good part of her life has vanished, that she must render an account of everything – of the beginning of her life as well as the later part – unto the last penny (Mt. 5:25) when God will search Jerusalem with lighted candles (Zeph. 1:12), and that it is already late – and the day far spent (Lk. 24:29) – to remedy so much evil and harm. She feels on the other hand that God is angry and hidden because she desired to forget Him so in the midst of creatures, Touched with dread and interior sorrow of heart over so much loss and danger, renouncing all things, leaving aside all business, and not delaying a day or an hour, with desires and sighs pouring from her heart, wounded now with the love for God, she begins to call her Beloved…

Let us look at these hard but freeing spiritual insights one by one, with  commentary by me, in red.

The soul has grown aware of her obligations and observed

1. That life is short (Job 14:5).

More than any other age we entertain the illusion that death can be easily postponed. It cannot be. We are not guaranteed the next beat of our heart, let alone tomorrow! It is true that with advances in medical science, sudden death from lesser causes it not as frequent today. But too easily this leads us to entertain the notion that we can cheat death. We cannot.

Life remains short, and we do not get to choose when we will die. Both my mother, and sister died on a sudden, were swept away in an instant. They never got to say goodbye. You do not know if you will even finish this sentence before or article before death summons you.

This is wisdom. It is a hard truth that gives us an important perspective. Life is short and you don’t have a calendar to know how short.

What are you doing to get ready to meet God? What are you getting worked up about and what are not concerned about? Are your priorities rooted in the truth that life is short? Or are you waging bets in a foolish game where the house (death and this world) always wins on its terms and not yours?

There is a strange serenity and freedom in realizing that life is short. We do not get as worked up about passing things, and we become more invested in lasting things, and the things to come.

2. The path leading to eternal life constricted (Mt. 7:14) 

Another illusion we entertain today is that salvation is a cinch, that it is a done deal. The “heresy” of our time is a kind of universal salvation that denies the consistently repeated biblical teach which declares: Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matt 7:13-14 inter al).

In parable after parable, warning after warning, Jesus speaks with sober admonition about the reality of hell and the closing reality of judgment. No one loves you more than Jesus, and no warned you about Hell and Judgment more than Jesus.

Salvation is not easy, it is hard. Jesus said this, not me. This is not because God is mean, it is because we are stubborn, obtuse and prefer the darkness to light. We need to sober up about our stubbornness and our tendencies to prefer “other arrangements” to what God offers and teaches. In the end, God will respect our choice and there comes a day when our choice for or against the Kingdom and its values will be sealed forever.

This is a hard saying, but it sets us free from the awful sin of presumption, a sin against hope and instills in us a proper priority for the work that is necessary to root us in God. Accepting this hard truth will free you from silly and baseless presumption. It will make you more serious about your spiritual life and aware of the need for prayer, sacraments, Scripture and the Church. It will help you have better priorities that are less obsessed with passing worldly things and people, and be more rooted in what it eternal. It will make you more evangelical and urgent to save souls. It will turn you to Jesus and away from Belial and passing pathetic worldly things.

3. That the just one scarcely saved (1 Pet. 4:18) 

Here is a further truth that sets aside modern errors about an almost universal salvation. The fuller context of the quote is this: For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4:17-18)

And yet, despite this and many other quotes and teachings like it, we go one presuming that almost everyone will go to heaven. We set aside God’s Word, for human errors and wishful thinking. We substitute human assurances for God’s warnings. We elevate ourselves over St. Paul who said that we should work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) and spoke of disciplining himself, lest, after preaching to others, he should be lost (1 Cor 9:27). Are we better and more enlightened that Jesus? Than Paul, Than Peter?

Salvation is hard. This is not meant to panic us, but it is meant to sober us to the need for prayer, Sacraments, Scripture and the Church. Without these medicines we don’t stand a chance. And we must persevere to the end.

This hard truth sets us free from illusion and sends us running to the Lord who alone can save us. Smug presumption roots us in the world, Godly fear and sober awareness of our stubborn and unrepentant hearts sends us to Jesus and this frees us.

4. The things of the world vain and deceitful (Eccles. 1:2)

Such a freeing truth. First that the things of this world are vain. That is to say, they are empty, passing, and vapid. We so exult power, popularity, and worldly glories. But they are gone in a moment. Who was Miss America in 1974? Who won the Heisman Trophy in that same year? If you know, do you really care and does it really matter? Empty show, glitter and fools gold, yet we spend billions and watch this stuff forever.

And even though we should fight for justice, for the sake of the kingdom, even here the Scriptures counsel some perspective: I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree. But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found. (Ps 37:35-36).

And how deceitful is this passing world.! The main deceit of this world is to say, “I am what you exist for, I am what matters, I am what satisfies.” Lies and deceptions on all counts. The form of this world is passing away. It cannot supply our infinite desires. Our hearts were made for God, and only being with him one day will satisfy.

Yet so easily do we listen to the world’s seduction and lies. Too often we want to be lied to and prefer to chase illusions, vanity and indulge deceit.

How freeing this truth is, if we can lay hold of it. We learn to make use of what we need, but begin to lose our obsession with vain and passing things, and our insatiable desire for more. Yes, perhaps you can live without that granite counter top.

This is a very freeing truth if we can accept its hard reality. And becoming more free a deeper serenity finds us.

5. That all comes to an end and fails like falling water (2 Sam. 14:14)

The world is passing away. It can’t secure your future. The world cruel lies that it can supply you is on display in every graveyard. So much for the world’s empty promises: “You can have it all!” Yes, and then you die.

Meditate on death often. Indeed, every night the Church bids us to rehearse our death in night prayer by the reciting of the Nunc Dimittis.

Scripture says, For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come (Heb 13:14). Do you have your sights fixed where true joys are? Or are you like Lot’s wife?

Let this truth free you to have proper perspective. Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (Col 3:1).

6. And that the time is uncertain. 

You got plans for tomorrow? Great, so do I. Only problem, tomorrow is not promised or certain. Neither is the next beat of your heart. Another hard, but freeing truth.

7. The accounting strict

Jesus warns,  But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken (Matt 12:36). St. Paul says, He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart (1 Cor 4:5). And adds, So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:9-10). And James chillingly says, So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy (James 2:12-13) What he says is chilling since so many are without mercy today.

If God judges us with the same strict justice we often dish out, we don’t stand a chance. The accounting will be strict, so don’t pile on with unnecessary severity and wrath toward others.

Here is another freeing truth that helps us take heed of the coming judgement.

8. Perdition very easy – I wonder why he might have repeated this? I just wonder….!

9. And salvation very difficult – Hmm… look he repeated this too! I wonder why? Maybe repetition is the mother of studies.

10. [That we are often and strangely ungrateful and unmoved] She knows on the other hand of her immense indebtedness to God for having created her solely for Himself, and that for this she owes Him the service of her whole life; and because He redeemed her solely for Himself she owes Him every response of love. She knows, too, of the thousand other benefits by which she has been obligated to God from before the time of her birth, and that a good part of her life has vanished,

Here is a sober truth that calls us to remember. What does it mean to remember? To remember means to have present in your mind and heart what the Lord has done for you so that you are grateful and different. 

And yet we live so many years and hours of the day in ingratitude. We get all worked up resentful about the smallest setbacks, and almost totally ignore the trillions of blessings each day.

In a sense our ingratitude is obnoxiously massive because of the easy manner with which we mindlessly receive and discount incredibly numerous blessings, and magnify every suffering setback or trial. So much of our life passes in the complaint department. And so commonly we are stingy with even a simple “Thank you Lord, for all your obvious and hidden blessings, thank you Lord for creating, sustaining and loving me to the end, and for inviting me to know, Love and serve you.

11. That she must render an account of everything – of the beginning of her life as well as the later part – unto the last penny (Mt. 5:25) when God will search Jerusalem with lighted candles (Zeph. 1:12) – Did he repeat himself again? Now why do you suppose he does that?! You don’t think he considers us stubborn, do you?

12. and that it is already late – and the day far spent (Lk. 24:29) – to remedy so much evil and harm. Repetitio mater studiorum

13. [That the unrepentant will experience the wrath to come]She feels on the other hand that God is angry and hidden because she desired to forget Him so in the midst of creatures,

The wrath of God is really in us, not in God. It is our experience of discomfort before the holiness of God. It is like being used to a dark room, and suddenly being brought into the bright afternoon sunlight. We protest and say the light is harsh. But the light is not harsh. We are incapable of tolerating the light due to our preference for and acclamation to the dark. In the same way God is not  “mad” He is not moody or harsh. He is God. And God does not change.

Thus St. John teaches here, the hard but freeing truth that God is holy and no one is going to walk into his presence unprepared. If we prefer the world and its creatures to the Creator, we thereby prefer the darkness and cannot tolerate the light. Heaven is simply not possible for those who prefer the darkness. And thus Jesus says, And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil (John 3:19) – That’s right, just three verses after John 3:16

And while the sinful soul may “feel” that God is angry and hiding himself, the problem is in the sinful soul, not God.

The freedom of this hard saying comes in reminding us, and urging us to get ready to meet God. He is not going to change. He can’t change. So we have to change, and by his grace, become the light of his holiness.

14. [We Need to Call on the Savior] – Touched with dread and interior sorrow of heart over so much loss and danger, renouncing all things, leaving aside all business, and not delaying a day or an hour, with desires and sighs pouring from her heart, wounded now with the love for God, she begins to call her Beloved

And yes, here is the real point of all these hard truths: to make us love our savior more, learn to depend on him, and run to him as fast as we can. Only when we know the hard truths are we really going to be all that serious.

After all, who goes to the doctor? One who is convinced he has no cancer (even though he does). Or the one who knows he’s got it bad and that ain’t good? The answer is self evident.

Bad sadly the answer is self-evident enough to this current generation where, even in the Church, there are so many who don’t want to discuss any of the hard and sober truths we need to lay hold of before we get serious.

A steady diet of “God loves you and all is well, no matter what…” has emptied our pews. Why? Well, who goes to the spiritual hospital if all they hear is that nothing is wrong and that their salvation is secure, almost no matter what?

The good news of the gospel has little impact when the bad news is no longer understood. What does salvation mean if there is no sin and nothing to be saved from? Now of course the bad news should not be preached without pointing to the good news. But the point is that both are needed.

Thus, St. John’s hard truths are not meant to discourage. They are meant to sober us and send us running to the doctor.

Now look,  you’ve got it bad and that ain’t good. But the Good news is, there is a doctor in the house. Run to him now, he’s calling you!

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  1. Hard Spiritual Truths That Will Set You Free! | Courageous Priest | October 24, 2013
  1. Peter Wolczuk says:

    Firstly, in the set of quotes prior to your red lettered commentary, there’s a longish one attributed to Mt.5:5. Where, I puzzle to myself, is the quote from? Does Mt represent the Book of Matthew? But, neither my NIV version nor the New Jerusalem Bible, which I checked online, seem to match up. Looking at a list in both references I see only two other books that begin with the letter “M” but, neither has a “t” in it. Checking for keywords on Bible Gateway revealed nothing but, this reference site is imperfect.
    Use of terms like “sober” and “serenity” help me focus on the problem of addictions and lead me to see what appears to be a great denial and; someone in denial does not know that they are in this state – so thoroughly are they deceived and have, resultantly, deceived themselves. This is why interventions are sometimes staged.
    The addict; drawing from 10 years of personal review and the stories of others who have achieved relieve from a phony, self-deceptive and self-destructive lifestyle; uses what is called escape from reality but, what does this highly generalized term mean, more specifically?
    In my work with myself, and those whom I have helped, it seems to be buried (suppressed) pain that the addict will numb out by whatever means possible and irregardless of the consequences. This is how great the pain.
    Where is the pain which so many hide from? Is it about giving in to a fear of what we don’t (and can’t) understand? Acceptance of not understanding was an important point that brought me from a state of extreme non-denominational, as I wondered from one Christian church to another and (briefly) into and out of the new age. I have seen a reference to it in Judges 13:18 where the NIV version has written that a name, of an angel and not even God, is beyond understanding but, a footnote has an alternate translation “wonderful”. Then, the New Jerusalem Bible has “a name of wonder”. We can take wonderful as something of a sort of beauty but, the etymology implies, to me, that it could also be left us wondering what it really means, perhaps not being able to discern.
    On another point, the assurances that sin is automatically forgiven; despite the many references to the contrary in the New Testament, leads to your wonderful point that people who are sick, but don’t know or admit it, don’t seek help. Takes us back to denial.
    What I see around me is a growing sort of; if everyone acts nice then, they will become nice. If addicts are all placed on disability and their substance is doled out in such a way that they can’t run amok then they will be … what? Stabilized?
    The scary part of these things is that they partially work – as society, and its members, lose initiative and all head toward a static and seemingly meaningless existance.
    In the 1500’s many Europeans headed out en-mass to explore the rest of the world in sailing ships. No more were governments left with only a few reports of the few people like Marco Polo. Quantities of reports and trade goods flowed in.
    The explorers encountered many types of societies, some of which were old and static. They had histories of robust periods but these had faded away. Now (in the 1500’s) they plodded along as their philosophies preached “nice”, or something like it, that promised some vaque spiritual reward.
    Time for a spiritual intervention for the world? I don’t know but, Apocolypse seems to mention one coming. We could just fall back on our perceived virtues and leave it all to God without making the effort but, I don’t think its a good idea to stand by idly and watch change human societies be changed itno a semblence of a herd of dumb ruminants. He gave us gifts beyond taht to a purpose.

    • Deborah Ketcham says:

      Actually, you made a mistake here. You were looking at Matthew 5:5 and the author referred to Matthew 5:25.

      By the New American Bible, Matthew 5:25-26 read: “Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny,”

      So you see if you refer to the correct passage(s), the author’s point is valid.

      Additionally, I would like to point out that the author made reference to the verse. He did not quote the verse. No quotation marks are included and the sentence structure was not for a quotation.

  2. Peter Wolczuk says:

    Oh no! forgot Maccabees in the list of books starting with “M” but it doesn’t have a “t” either.

    • Peter Wolczuk says:

      Thank you. My mistake was in typing in Matthew 5:5 instead of 5:25. I didn’t see a connection between what was written and Matthew 5:25 but your contribution; especially about it not being a quote; leads me to see the connection.
      However there quotes that lack quotation marks (in the same overall text) but,,, … had I been a little more open minded and broadly perspected well; who knows?
      Thank you Deborah.

  3. Catechist Kev says:

    “A steady diet of “God loves you and all is well, no matter what…” has emptied our pews. Why? Well, who goes to the spiritual hospital if all they hear is that nothing is wrong and that their salvation is secure, almost no matter what? ”

    In my role as a Catechist I always raise the point that our Blessed Lord speaks *way more often* about sin and damnation than He does about grace and salvation.

    Does this rub some the wrong way? Sure. However, as Msgr. Pope says, it is not meant to discourage us, it is meant to sober us (and I would say “encourage” us).

    The spiritual giants all write like this wonderful entry by St. John of the Cross. If only we heard more often from them!

    Thank you so much, Msgr. Pope. You, too, are a “fisher of men.”

    • Sally says:

      Where is the like button?! 😀 You wrote what I would like to say.

    • Lisa says:

      Yes, it has emptied the pews and filled the pews of the “feel good” churches where nothing is a sin and all will be saved… truly we are living in times of denial and iniquity.

      • chris.faulds@gmail.com says:

        Lisa,

        Your comment is actually not true where I live. In fact the pews are full in the Parish where our Priest stands up every day to deliver reality and the feel good churches around his Parish are empty. Maybe it’s different in the U.S.A……………………………… for the moment.

  4. Mark says:

    Come Holy Spirit; enkindle in our hearts the fire of your love; enlighten our minds with the wisdom of your truth; and teach and strengthen us to live your will.

  5. Thomas Gallagher says:

    Thanks, Monsignor, for these beautiful reflections. They have an awesome and yet also sobering beauty. Our world is filled today with innumerable pathways that allow us to turn away from God as we make our little egos into pagan gods. Within the Church herself the worst of these seductive and wide pathways is the great heresy of the 21st century–Universalism. So many Catholics seem to be thinking, as Louis XIV is supposed to have said, that God would not dare to send them to Hell. But on the other hand we have anxious Catholics who, rather than assuming they are saved, fall into the opposite error of thinking that their sins are so many and so serious that they can scarcely find their way along the path of salvation. For their sake we need to remember that with God there is both judgment and mercy.

    As a matter of simple fact, we cannot know how many people will be saved and how many damned. For an excellent review of Matthew 22: 14 (Many are called but few are chosen) see the brilliant article by Herbert A. Musurillo, S. J. ” ‘Many Are Called, but Few Are Chosen’ (Matthew 22:14),” Theological Studies, VII, 4 (1946) 583-9. Father Musurillo warns us that it is impossible to say how many will be saved and how many lost and that in any case this passage likely refers to the Jews as a people and not to the Gentile Christians to whom the apostles were preaching. We can also read Pope Benedict’s encyclical Spe Salvi with great profit. Benedict says that we must surely work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), as you yourself rightly say. But if we go on reaching out to God, as Benedict supposes most ordinary Christians try to do as they walk along the narrow and thorny path, we can have the hope that we go to judgment before an Eternal Judge who is also our paraclete–quite literally our defense attorney (1 Jn 2:1.) I myself like to think that if I cannot afford to pay for the attorney (by my Good Works), then the Court of Heaven will already have appointed a defense attorney for me–Our Lord himself.

    From a purely legalistic point of view, this is the truth of the Christian faith, isn’t it? The Judge is also the Defense Counsel !

  6. Janet Smith says:

    This is a fantastic piece. I hope to meditate on it periodically. I do think it is for the spiritually mature (not to say that I am but I find that as I grow in love of Jesus, I can ponder hell more easily). Hell is such a scary prospect that people run from the concept rather than reform their lives. It is those who are truly in love with God that can face the reality of hell because they know Jesus is with them every step of the way in their fleeing from the horrors of hell.

    • Phil says:

      “Hell is such a scary prospect that people run from the concept rather than reform their lives.”
      What a wonderful quote Janet! May I steal it and use it some time?

  7. Paul says:

    thanks, I needed that

  8. bobster says:

    Very True, and Very Sobering.

    thanks for punching through the denial system that the world encases us with.

  9. Tanya says:

    Monsignor, personally I’d prefer to read the paragraphs in black. The whole article turned me off being printed in red, and no, it did not set the fires of fear in me. This is point number one. I don’t happen to be one of those people who do well with being “threatened” with the “fear of God. Yes they may be or “are” hard truths,but for those of us, like me, who “lost ” family members almost life in a car accident when I was age 13, this is “old stuff”, grin, if you know what I’m saying. I thank God that with the passage of time that I have been “healed”, (for lack of a better word) of that extreme and acute knowingness that you could be here today and not tomorrow. I had that for about ten years or so, and that’s why it amazed me why so many people complained about not “living life”. I’ve been where you were, Monsignor. I just don’t need this printed in red. Best wishes for your next readers. Since God is justice, mercy, love and everything all combined, and given my famlly background and other factors ( am a convert since 18/19, didn’t grow up with a father really) I’ll stick with God as love ( and everything else) first. I’ve already been through having my world, inside and outside, torn to pieces. I’m sure that readers who may be elsewhere spiritually may benefit from this article. God bless, Tanya ( Mind you, the knowledge of how precious life is, the physical and how it turned me upside down and propelled me even more to seek God is a huge gift, but I have no interest in re-reading an article that’s blaring its message in red. Sorry but that’s me.)

    • I kinda figured the red was not the point. You can stick with a view of God that you like, but of course it is the real God you’re going to encounter and He has given some pretty clear indicators of what to expect and how to prepare. Your reference to God is Love is surely biblical but I suspect, given your irritation with the well attested biblical parameters set forth by St. John, that what you mean by “God is Love” is not the biblical notion. Family history and “where you are personally” aside, encountering God as He really is, is what must be the goal. Reality is always freeing than than where I am personally.

  10. Bwansart says:

    Keep on Keepen on-straight-ahead toward your final home.

  11. Robert Gallagher says:

    Well said and necessary! Thank you

  12. Lisa says:

    I am printing this off to re-read and read again… I am also sharing it… thank you for this!

  13. anna lisa says:

    Tanya is right. God is LOVE.
    God is not at the top of the narrow path, allowing his besmirched children to fall into the abyss like snowflakes.
    Because God is perfect, we will ALL see the pain we have caused others in this life, at death. The presence of perfect LOVE will allow us to see it. Very, very, very, very, very few of us are ready for the beatific vision at the moment of death. A handful of people *will* have expended their last breath so utterly poured out for others, that they will indeed enter the narrow gate, as Jesus promises.
    We are *stupendously and powerfully* saved by God Himself on the cross–not barely saved, as if God’s blood was hardly powerful enough!
    Depending upon the nature, and gravity of our sins, allows for the profundity of that which will separate us from the glory of the” wedding feast”. This distance from the groom will cause us to grieve more profoundly than anything else on this earth. Saints have used images of fire and rending asunder to describe what poor souls feel when separated from their true source.
    That God would allow the *vast majority* of His children to languish in the abyss of HELL for ALL ETERNITY, is simply the most disgusting heresy that a Catholic could teach. No wonder people walk away from this caricature of God! Anybody who has ever been profoundly loved or loves, knows this to be a hideous LIE–We know *who* has reason to sow such seeds of malignancy, and would want us to worship this false image.
    True Parenthood profoundly refutes abortion.
    What is an eternal life in Hell, but *abortion*, and a worse abortion than the kind a mother on earth goes through with, because she was *never* the creator of her child’s SOUL.
    That many human beings now reject Catholicism wholesale because of this heartless misinterpretation of Jesus’ words makes such a teaching a heresy of the most damaging kind.
    For generations and generations, the teaching of “no salvation outside of the Church” was misunderstood, by saints and theologians. Now,we understand that any upright soul from any generation since humans have had souls can attain heaven. But Saint Paul always referred to them.
    Thank God there have been saints and theologians that intuited that indeed *many* are saved through the Church, even if they were not aware of this mystery. Many saints and theologians didn’t understand this fact, and so spread the erroneous message that *most* are damned forever, because they were not Catholics.

    • Repent and Believe the Gospel ! says:

      “For generations and generations, the teaching of “no salvation outside of the Church” was misunderstood, by saints and theologians. Now, we understand that any upright soul from any generation since humans have had souls can attain heaven.”

      THEY CAN ATTAIN HEAVEN BY THEIR OWN POWER?

      “HE WHO HEARS YOU, HEARS ME”, Luke 10:16

      So Christ is not our Mediator? Christ is the Head and we are the Body. You shoot off your mouth (you’re a know it all), yet you don’t know theology. You must be a liberal protestant.

      Oh my goodness, Anna Lisa is all knowing, she rejects the teachings of the Church because she is the Pope!
      WOW, Anna Lisa also rejects the words of Christ:

      “Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able.” – Luke 13:24

      I think Anna Lisa a trolling liberal clown!

      • anna lisa says:

        Oh my dear sir, you have no idea how much you sound like the prodigal’s older brother.
        I am a wife, mother of eight. (eight living and eight buried).
        The heart of my day, and the tryst of my bridegroom is the Holy Mass.
        The Holy rosary is the embrace of my sweet mother, and the heavenly work we do together.
        The chaplet of the Divine Mercy is the work of my sleepless nights.
        I understand what it is to want to die for the ones I love, and would go to the ends of the earth for them. It is a school of love that I never expected, but it is so powerful that I can’t keep quiet.

  14. Tanya says:

    Of course, Monsignor but the real God isn’t hanging over one’s head in such a threatening way. I’m well aware of the clear indicators that God has given. I also know and believe that He sees and knows everything that has influenced a person to make the decision he/she did and that He ( how should I put this, am scratching head here smiles) will not change His justice to “suit” the person but administer it accordingly. With all respect it’s not the view of God that I like but the God that I came to know and perceive as being. Given my irritation with the way you’ve described thing,s I’m afraid that the God I believe in is biblical. Family history and “where I am” plays a big part in how one experiences God, Monsignor and surely you as a priest must know that. God tries to come across as He really is through the people he used to write the epistles and Gospels, through His saints.
    Reality, Monsignor? Yes it’s been very freeing to know what reality is. The good thing is that I experienced “reality” at the age of 13 and so didn’t find this article helpful at all. I’d encourage you to re-read what people write. I can’t quite pickup what “irritation” you picked up in my email. I only wanted to state that it was somewhat irritating to have the red blaring in one’s eyes. Emotionally you picked a color that has very strong emotional tones, mainly for annoyance and anger, as I’ve understood it. Given the life experience that I had, the red was unneeded, unwanted and not helpful for me, that’s all. I’m glad that I know reality too from where I’ve been personally and as God helped me to see it through tragedy.
    I’m sorry that I conveyed to you that the “real God you’re going to encounter” isn’t the one that I came to believe in. I think you’re dead wrong but we don’t know each other so, it doesn’t bother me that much. St. John of the Cross, I thought, addressed himself to spiritually advanced people, more so than others didn’t he Monsignor? I’m not an expert on this so. God’s justice will be executed etc… and I know that. But the truth is that God is Love and that in His Love is encompassed his Justice, Mercy, anger, you name it. And no I’m not aware of having been “fed” the theme that God is Love and only Love from the pews. Even if I did make out even less than half a homily I “learned” about God through the car accident, spending time in front of the tabernacle and the Bible, as well as reading a bit from St. John of the Cross too. And I still don’t come across the idea that his spiritually sparse description ( if I’m saying this write) is the one and only way to interpret one’s spiritual experience. No, Monsignor my feeling of being scratched a bit is that St. John’s interpretation or writing don’t communicate to me the love of God as a Father,and I have leaned on that a lot. There’s nothing wrong with his writings or interpretation at all. But you don’t give each “child” in the family the same advice at the same time at the same age do you Father? So yes, the “well atttested bibilical parameters as set forth by St. John” are perfectly valid. But, a) they do not need to be set out in blaring red for one thing to get through to people and b)thank God that without reading St. John that sometimese people can become aware of these “paremeters”. I’ll stick with God’s Mercy and do my best to stay on the straight spiritual path. So I’d suggest that you not tell me that my notion of God isn’t the “biblical notion”. It comes across, Monsignor, as if you don’t see someone receive or hear God in fear and trembling that , dummy me, that person is, for sure, going to follow, hook line and sinker, for the well God loves me no matter what I do right? Sorry I didn’t fall for that yet..

    • Not sure I follow all this. But you get the last say, at least from me, and to critique my reply.

      • Repent and Believe the Gospel ! says:

        Okay, you don’t like the color red, we got it! But you are all over the place, next time make your point short and concise!

    • Helen says:

      Hi Tanya

      I was inspired to read St. John of the Cross’ Dark night of the soul. Fortunately for me I was given the book containing his complete works – the book included: Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night of the Soul, Living Flame, maxims etc. Had I just read the Dark Night of the Soul I would not have gathered much insight. I began with Ascent of Mount Carmel and it was very intriguing in that it dealt with the different stages of the soul’s spiritual growth and how it may stagnate and why. It also gives the reader an insight as to the development stage of the reader’s soul and encourages the reader to pursue in its spiritual growth. I desired it and the Holy Spirit led me to St Teresa of Avila and her spiritual guidances, to St. Catherine of Siena and numerous other saints so I would get an all round understanding of the spiritual dynamics involved in cooperating with God’s graces to actively participate in the purification of my soul- still ongoing but I have advanced to the unitive state now. It was amazing what God did with this wretch… who at one time would not have considered herself a wretch at all. Now I can join the Blessed Mother in Her Magnificat and make Her Magnificat my own, even I am no way holy as She is… but I can say with the Blessed Mother those same words though our circumstances are not the same. My soul does rejoice at what God has done for me and continue to do and He certainly looked with favor on His lowly servant to give her an inkling of His greatness and His desire to share with this wretch His heavenly kingdom.. I digress but you get the picture

      There are three stages in our soul’s spiritual development – purgative, illuminative and unitive. God does meet us at our level and He can raise us up higher if we but cooperate and be docile to the Holy Spirit. That is the true meaning of what Jesus meant when He said many are invited but few are chosen.

      God wants it for all of us. St John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila hold the completing puzzles to the chosen route if we want to take it. To take God up on it, we need to subdue our ego – unfortunately God will not allow total annihilation of our pride and it is the only the stumbling factor which takes on various guises to prevent us in our spiritual growth

      Though I am in the unitive state as well as Mgsr Pope is – our unitive states are not alike. His is far greater. The greatest gift – the liberating gift the unitive state gives is the Gift of Holy Detachment and this gift is acquired through the practice of humility and charity. It also gives you an experiential knowledge of the Gift of Christ’s peace… to the point that whatever or whoever that annoys you ceases to bother you at all… regardless of your past history. It is totally phenomenal. You are being invited to reach that stage. Msgr Pope is trying to awaken every soul to God’s invitation – the hard truths as he calls it.

      St Teresa of Avila states we have two sources from whence our thoughts originate – the evil one and his agents or from God and His agents. We have analyze our thoughts to determine their sources. Ponder on it.

      Your soul is progressing on to the second stage but pride is holding it back. Take up Imitation of Christ to learn how to respond in humility and then read Ascent of Mount Carmel. St. John speaks of the spiritual pitfalls we can get into and how to avoid them. The Three Ages of Interior Life by the late Fr. LaGrange OP will give you more insight into the works of St. John and St. Teresa of Avila. It is available online to read in its entirety or available through TAN Books. It is by no accident that you have been introduced to St. John. God just doesn’t want you to stick to the knowledge that He is Merciful – He wants you to delve deeper into it. That is why He has introduced St. John of the Cross to you. Humbly accept the challenge and you will one day thank Msgr Pope for his blaring red comments.

      But if you choose not take God up on His offer, He will still wait patiently for you. He loves you as you are. He is giving us all an opportunity to do our purgatory here rather than in the after-life. Either way, all of us intending to go to Heaven will have to make that choice.

      Even at the unitive stage we just barely fathom God’s mercy and love. His Justice is also to be known and understood and feared, so we can ask for the grace to be able to intercede for others who do not know Him, love Him or serve Him, for it is by sheer grace we have the gift of faith which is not ours to keep but to pass on to others.

  15. RichardGTC says:

    Wow. Some really spirited comments.

    Though, myself, I found the piece a little lengthy (pardon my quibble), it all seemed Catholic to me.–and Catholic is the highest compliment.

    I recall hearing an orthodox and well-respected Catholic theologian say before someone reads the giants of prayer, such as St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, he should first read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Having done that, turning to authors of that sort would then be appropriate. Makes sense to me.

  16. Bill says:

    From my own perspective, I have always been taught that it is not easy to attain heaven. I work very hard to follow the narrow path, but as a sinner I fall off.
    If what I was taught as a cradle Catholic is true, who is being saved today? I was taught missing Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin, but so is missing Mass on a Holy Day of Observation. OK, so we have 4 fairly full Masses on Sunday and then 3 half empty Masses on Holy Days.
    Are those not mortal sins? If they don’t repent are they going to hell?
    What about contraceptives. My wife practiced NFP. How many of the people I see at Mass are using birth control. That also is a mortal sin.
    I get some consolation from Our Lady of Medjugorje who said that very few people go straight to Heaven, most go to heaven but a lot of people do go to hell.

    Purgatory must be able to purgate mortal sins somehow. Or maybe missing mass or using birth control are not mortal sins. Who knows?

    • I think you need to add more in your discussion about about mortal sin that might ameliorate the numbers a little. In particular, more is needed than the grave matter you cite, also needed is sufficient reflection (understanding) and full consent of the will. We ought not forget that, even in a world that smugly dismisses sin, that does not mean that the Church’s position is simply the other extreme. The insights of St. John are a call to sobriety, not the abandonment of all hope.

      Careful about the Medjugorje stuff, careful. Quotes like this are what gets the apparition in trouble in that too many of the things she allegedly says, run counter to teachings and practices of the Church. I leave the final decisions about Med.. to the Bishops, but for now, caution.

  17. Bill says:

    I meant Holy Day of Obligation. My mistake.

  18. Rosemary says:

    Excellent piece! This probably won’t sit well with many, and some may not understand it. However, it is true and people need to listen, pray, work and teach with this in mind. Yet, we know, those who are reading this, the Lord is speaking to them. For the Lord has his reason. It has helped me. Thank you, Monsignor.

  19. Tanya says:

    Monsignor, thanks for your patience. I apologize for my rambling. Let’s say that it’s not the best example of my writing okay. I see it as a side effect of a head injury incurred in the car accident a long time ago at age 13. What I’d like to try to say is that without being presumptuous, I’ve “heard” from St. John of the Cross before, and the Bible. I can and have written “better” than the long paragraph you just read. In fact in spite of the head injury one of the “stronger” areas in college and graduate school was writing, believe it or not grin. It just doesn’t always show up when I’m writing off the cuff, I believe would be the expression to use.

    I think you’re writing for those who believe that no matter what they do that they’ll get to heaven. I don’t fall in that group. I also did find it difficult to read it due to the print being in red. To you, it might be nothing. To me, given that for a long long time, ( have recently turned 48) red was a color that evoked strong feelings and because of that one that I rarely wore in spite of it complementing me, it “said” something else, that’s all.

    I’m all for for what you’re saying about God. I’m also writing from where I, not you, am at. Let me give this one more try. If you speak to me about God’ s justice and how “hard” salvation is… Allow me to ramble. You’re surely aware of people ( am thinking of snippets, autobiographies, whatever, stuff in the Catholic Digest read in the past, online, etc..etc..) who recall being told as kids that God SAW EVERYTHING… To go on… with whatever Sister, Father, mother, family, and the individual “sized up”, bingo, he/she grows up to be an adult and “fears” God as I’m afraid that He will hit me over the head every time I make a mistake.
    I know, and am not trying to boast here, that God isn’t like that. Not to say that we don’t need to be purified of our venial sins eiether. One of the things I wanted to point out is that I, personally, don’t benefit from the laying out of the cold, hard, facts WITHOUT( caps for emphasis here only, a pity we can’t use bold, smiles) the mixing it with God’s mercy, that is , His understanding, so much greater than ours of what our makeup, our intentions at the time, which can determine the gravity of sin ( right or how off the mark am I here?) etc…
    As a previous commenter posted above, what St. John of the Cross writes is for the spiritually mature.And definitely something to be aimed at. But we may not all get there following the same paths or with the same twists and turns. I know that the God that I believe in encompasses everything, Justice, Mercy, Love, can be angry with me, scold me, et.c…

    One of the points made , if I recall correctly in your article, (I skimmed it again briefly, and would have to read it in great detail to “remember” everything) or a sentence in it is to say, run to the doctor!
    With what, a grocery list of sins? I believe that that is what is implied, Monsignor right? I defnitely don’t want to “run to the doctor” as if someone were putting a gun at the back of my head. Without having grown up with pre-Vatican II, nor had any “angry” experiences with a priest or nun, and fully supporting the right of anyone to “scold” me in the spiritual or religious sense, I’m kind of sensitive to “talk” that speaks of you’d better be good, because if not you wont’ get anything for/in Heaven, due to how I processed “anger” from my mother growing up etc…

    Okay, in case I’ve “rambled” again, maybe I should let go for now smiles. The God that you’re portraying, Msgr. is there, right. But, as the glass that I believe it’s Pauline, or the sister who pointed it out to St. Therese, some of us may have our glasses half full ( regarding our understanding or capacity to “hear” of God being spoken of in a certain way) and others maybe have it full. I’ve been very puzzled to discover a fear “towards” confession that has bewildered me for a long long time already. I’m sure that at the very bottom of my bucket that there’s something to do with my “response”/reaction to your article ( besides it having being written in red grin). Even before I became Catholic Ii thought that God just had to be good, that something out there had to have created everything and , well sure, justice was part of the picture, right wrong, right? But, if you live life long enough, just growing up, you don’t need, necessarily, to digest St. John of the Cross, to realize that trying to follow Jesus, to find him, to stay on the right path, is going to be “hard” ( as in salvation is hard). Okay now I’ll be quiet again. Thanks.

  20. Tanya says:

    Richard I’m not sure if your comments are on what I wrote. To sum it up, I already know what St. John of the Cross said. Secondly, given that God “takes into consideration” everything about us, our weaknesses, the choices we could have made, why we made them, lots and lots of stuff, I’m not ready to ” go run to the doctor”. Right now I’m going through a dry time too and it probably isn’t the best time to comment on material such as this. I ‘m much more in need of seeing and understanding how God understands me, relates to me in my daily life. And jobhunting smiles. Um, sorry if I’m putting my foot in here, yes what Father wrote is very Catholic. I was a brief time as a novice in the cloistered Carmelites too. It wasn’t just reading about St. John of the Cross there, ( got through Dark Night of the Soul) but the “lived” experience of surviving the car accident that shaped my life and was a huge factor in propelling me on my search for the “true faith”. Personally I do have to read a lot more of the Catechism. But God for me will always be love, whether he acts as a doctor , a loving father or whether He scolds me. Bye now

    • chris.faulds@gmail.com says:

      Hi Tanya, I saw and tried to understand all of your comments here but I still do not understand what the point of your comments are. Firstly I don’t understand the point about the “red text” as it’s there to signify the author’s views away from the content of the book.

      Secondly if you might recall that quite often our priests will wear red when the mass signifies a martyr.

      I’m sorry if I’m being blunt…….. but to me it seemed that you were just trying to antagonize the author of the article. Whom to me has taken the time to try and help us understand the reality of “the Hard Spiritual Truths that will set us free”

      It seems that you are trying to say that God accepts us no matter what we do because fundamentally in your opinion God is love. So based on what you may be trying to say if God is just love then to God sin does not exist as everything is acceptable to God because of your opinion of the word “love”. If we take for example today’s reading it’s clear that the Master ( God ) gives us either a light of heavy beating and for those that have the Grace of God and abuse the Grave of God within their lives will obtain a heavier beating than those whom are ignorant. So therefore your concept of the word love might be the problem that I’m having in understanding what it is that you are trying to say. Are you saying that in your opinion Love means that everything that we do in our lives is acceptable to God? If this is the case then please can you explain the following: If my daughter goes to put her hand in the wood fire in our house and I say “no” and she continues and I say “no” and then she’s at the point of hurting herself and I slap her to teach her that my actions are to protect her not to do something so dangerous you might say that I do not love her but it’s because I love her that I’m trying to teach her that she is endangering herself by what she is doing?

      Finally, throughout my short to medium existence I do not recall at any point ever hearing a Roman Catholic Priest imply or judge anyone that they will be going to hell. The comment that you made amazes me to think that you may have been watching to many films.

  21. PaulBVT says:

    Sometimes I am astounded at how the “Hound of Heaven” appeals to me…so a big thank you for sharing this homily. If a blind man were walking toward the edge of a cliff, wouldn’t we all warn him? Some would while others would rather remonstrate “What cliff are you talking about? That’s not a cliff…it’s simply another path! We all take different paths through life, and meet in the end!” Crazy world.

  22. Anna says:

    Having read about Muslim objections to our faith, wondering if the potrayal of The Lord as The Bridegroom is a big part of same , since , culturally, Islam would have lots of issues there !

    Since our Lord himself said that if we see Him, we have seen The Father ..would it not be better to relate to our Lord , or to even the Three Persons of the Trinity ,as to Father ..and may be the image of Bridegroom , to be given to The Spirit , in the context of The Church ..or as to how, The merits of The Lord bring redemption , to a debt ridden soul .

    In our carnal culture the above, as other issues around identity would seem to suggest that The Father love is what need to be emphasised more often and seems , IIRR , even Holy Father mentioned about The Lord, in such a manner .

    Such a change , based on the receptivity of the hearers seem endorsed by our Lord Himself , in His dialogue, in John, where , on one occasion he would say – ‘ if I bear witness to Myself , it cannot be verified ‘ ; later
    ( possibly, after having given the people , enough evidence) He would say – ‘ it can be verified ‘ – almost like The Church dealing with biblical revelations in timely manner ,, through her teachings , that might seem to change .

    True, we do need to hear about sin, hell and the lure of the world, often pleading for mercy and thank you for doing the tough job .

  23. Catharine says:

    Thank you for your article, Monsignor; this was a timely and well-needed reminder to keep to the straight and narrow path. I must agree with you, and not with those who fly up in a rage over what you have to say–I believe that the heresy (which I have actually heard taught from the pulpit here in Chicago, on multiple occasions) that there is no need to go to confession anymore, because we’re all going to be saved anyway–is in a most unfortunate way the very synthesis and summary of where most Catholics in this country are nowadays.
    Unfortunately, the vast material riches in the USA have led to a moral and spiritual bankruptcy (and darkness, and confusion). We need you to keep leading us into all truth, Monsignor, and I thank you personally for not feeding us still more empty platitudes.
    Perhaps some of these commentators also need to be reminded of the scriptural quotation to the effect, “to those to whom much has been given, much will be demanded.” The Christians of the primitive church were for the most part illiterates, the poor, and slaves, and they took learning and practicing their faith so much more seriously than we do (myself included), and look at the results they obtained from this attitude! The Church in India is spreading like wildfire among the Dalit caste (untouchables); the Brahmins and other upper castes cannot be bothered. And it’s the same in China, where it seems that as much as 10% of the country may now be baptized, and part of the underground Catholic church. And again, it is the humble and working classes that seem to be converting, not the party bosses or the new-bourgeoisie.
    The Holy Spirit blows where He wills; how we respond to Him is the only thing we really have any control over.

  24. Second Book Of Esdras Chap. 7;75-101 = "The Soul after Death" says:

    FYI

  25. B Polus says:

    Second Book of Esdras Chap. 7:75-101 = “The Soul after death”

  26. GONZALO T. PALACIOS, Ph.D. says:

    Monsignor Pope: Thank you for your introduction to San Juan de la Cruz. His spiritual jouney and that of Santa Teresa de Avila could occupy us for the next twelve months, don’t you think? I’d like to offer my own article as a sign of gratitude, Oremus ad Invicem, Gonzalo T.. Palacios, Ph.D.
    http://www.americanerasmus.com/dorothy-l-sayers-creation-vs-richard-dawkins-evolution/#respond

  27. B Polus says:

    FYI: Good News Bible – Catholic Study Edition (Source of info)

  28. Bill Foley says:

    I recommend Preparation for Death by St. Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church.

    One of his famous sayings is: “He who prays is saved; he who does not pray is lost.” Benedict XVI, on August 2, 2012, repeated this and gave full support to the teaching on prayer by St. Alphonsus.

  29. Matt says:

    You have to be like you said far on the path to grasp john of the cross.Loved your writing
    And I always bring it back to Divine Mercy that you either enter through my mercy or my Fathers justice you choose.The dreams of St John Bosco also show the road to hell that’s starts smooth and wide and before you know it,it’s straight down.The road to Heaven starts off hard but ends in Paradise.Remember what he said in the dialogue that he is a Father of Desire.Love GOD,neighbor and stay out of Mortal sin.Like st Frances said woe to them who die in mortal sin.

  30. Judith Johnson says:

    Thank you, Monsignor for such a beautiful piece of truth. It really cuts to the heart of our world. I remember hearing once “the root of all man’s problems is sin” and Jesus is the answer. This was back in my childhood at Presbyterian Church camp. Now I am 54, and a convert to the Catholic faith for 22 years. I was the formation director of our Third Order Discalced Carmelite fraternity for awhile and don’t remember reading that beautiful passage of St. John of The Cross, so I especially thank you for that.
    May I meditate on this often and well, and may you be blessed.

  31. Anon says:

    Wow. So much pride exemplified here. The sayings of JESUS are hard. The FACT is most go to HELL – Catholics because theyve been given all the necessary means are first in line. The WORD itself says so. Squirm and explain away all you want to make yourself feel better, but the Truth is the Truth.

    If one dies with just a single, unconfessed mortal sin on the soul then YES, he or she goes to hell. Period. And the only ones who can avoid that, if so, are Catholics via the Sacrament of Confession.

    Msgr. Pope wrote a fine, sobering and very Truthful article here… Those in denial need to take heed to every word. We never know what tomorrow may bring, we only have today.

  32. Donna L. says:

    I think this is an excellent piece, Monsignor, and have saved it to reread.

    I’m reading a book called Happy are You Poor by Thomas Dubay… talk about sobering and convicting! Something I just read reminds me of some of the responses here. He writes:

    “These people, thinking of religion only in terms of benevolence and harmony, cannot bring themselves to reflect on the God of supreme holiness and justice. God is always the God of heaven, never hell. They argue that:

    ‘we need not alarm ourselves, – that God is a merciful God, – that amendment is quite sufficient to atone for our offences, – that though we have been irregular in our youth, yet that is a thing gone by, – that we forget it, and therefore God forgets it, that the world is, on the whole, very well disposed towards religion, – that we should avoid enthusiasm, – that we should not be over serious, – that we should have large views on the subject of human nature, – and that we should love all men. This indeed is the creed of shallow men in every age.’ (quoting John Henry Newman)

  33. John Amberger says:

    I used to be turned off by St. John of the Cross. I used the excuse that it was dry and a hard read. I realize now that it was just me wanting to “listen to the world’s vain seductions and lies” as you have said; and avoiding responsibility. You have said so much. Impossible for me to choose what to comment about. It really directs me towards being grateful, non-judgmental, forgiving and utterly dependent on Jesus throughout all of my existence. I just hope I listen and put this lesson to practice. Repetition, Yes that is why I bookmarked this page. I hope to go over this again. Thank you Msgr. Charles Pope! It’s scary and the truth hurts but I guess I have to be mature and face reality. Humbling but it’s a very positive thing if you think it through. “You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free”. Thanks again.

  34. fats says:

    this is just my opinion, but it seems to me it requires a good hard look at oneself to understand what the Msgr is saying… God IS a God of Love, and also God of Justice. He said He did not come to set aside the Law, but to fulfill it. To claim that a person understands God better than the Church teachings, then that alone is presumptious, and to claim that all you do is Godly ( like prayers, Divine Mercy, having Children, etc) seems to me to be an issue of Pride, vs Love. If a person does not see that their lives are filled with sin, in some form or another, then you are calling God a liar, since it is He who declared there is no righteous man, not one. Christ came to save the repentant and humble of heart, If you cant see your sinfulness, how can you repent? “Just my opinion, i could be wrong” ( Dennis Miller)

    • anna lisa says:

      Fats, clearly your comments were aimed at me. What is interesting is that we have so many here that are positive that they understand how God’s justice and mercy function. I can only make *conjecture* of how God is by meditating on the life of Jesus. I believe *literally* every word that is in the CCC. Trying to understand truth based upon what saints see in vision, or based on private interpretation of the bible is extremely tricky business. I would imagine that if all of us believed the bible should be taken entirely at face value, we would believe that God hates our “enemies”, that we should gouge out our eyes if they have caused us to sin, or that we should “hate” our relatives in order to follow Christ. Of course this would be difficult to do because we would have already cut out our tongues, removed our eyes, have no arms…not to mention some of those other hellish parts…
      I mentioned prayer, and my life’s work not to boast, but to defend myself against those who imply that I am not Catholic. Did anyone stop to notice that I *never* said that there was no Hell? I believe *literally* what can be found in the catechism. But the catechism mentions people of other religions being saved by the church, even if they never understood enough to actually convert. St Teresa of Avila (my spiritual mother) wrote that the Lutherans are damned. St. Teresa is a doctor of the church, but here’s the clincher–she’s not infallible. The Catechism of the Catholic Church trumps the writing of a saint, and a doctor of the Church at that.
      Thanks be to God for our new Pope. He’s turning a lot of “traditional” Catholics on their heads. It would almost be numerous to watch them having temper tantrums, if it was not so sad that they are Pharisees 2.0.
      Most of us here would do well to examine our souls and ask ourselves what it is that will plunge our *own* souls into the “outer darkness” How we might be effecting an “anti” evangelization would probably be a very good beginning.

  35. Philip Williams says:

    Harden not your heart! repent! the kingdom of heaven is at hand.pray pray when we are praying we are with God.The sacrament of confession is real.The entire church, body of Christ stands before us , the Holy Healer hears us.Trust in His mercy.Pray that we can magnify the Lord like the blessed Virgen, and intercede for those whom we love and the entire world.We are a priestly people.He has endowed us with awesome share in his kingdom.Thank you Holy Priest in the order of Melchizedik!Pray for us BLESSED Virgen !

  36. remembering says:

    Red is a lovely color for text; in my Magnificat missal certain words are in red and I’ve never seen or heard anyone make a negative mention of it. Having list a child suddenly I find this a sublime blog entry, Monsignor Pope. You are becoming a daily read for me.

  37. I always heard says:

    I remember hearing, as a child, “the fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The older I get, the more true it seems to me.

  38. Anna says:

    Got stung by a Yellow Jacket the other day : for the next few hours , the finger and hand swelled up and hurt pretty bad, in spite of first aid ; it was good and bad – having a new appreciation for what pain is about , but fearfuly also realsing that difficult part , that even begins to ask – ‘My Lord, what is it about this body that something like this should hurt so much ‘ – sort of questioning His designs , forgetting that He made the body , with all its sensations and such , for it to do good things ,like feeling etc , not to be stung by Yellow Jackets and poisoned , which, then has to be dealt with and in between , being able to offer up the pain, with that of His – unimaginable , that it too be for conversions !

    Is it not something similar that happens with sin , except , the sinner can be drunk on the bad spirit , esp. of presumption , not even know how badly it is stung and swollen …and has the choice of either keepng in that state , becoming angry and despairing at God at the end ..or repenting , to a Lord , who has taken that sting unto Himself !

    God gives us life and love , to keep taking in how much each of us is loved , so that we bring such an attitude and power towards others too, with our prayerful concerns and care for well being of each other ..or, we choose to use the same God given hearts and lives, to bring the venom of pride,seeing others as less deserving of His rights , such as life or want to see others with envy, contempt and not able to give God, the honor and glory , for His humility with which He loves us unworthy children ,for all the good He enables us to do , instead giving it to the Yellow Jacket and its mission !

    How pitiful !

    May we be given the grace , to often thank and praise The Lord on behalf of all in our lives, for His mercy and how it has helped us to repent , do good , calling for more mercy , through repentance for others too, thus helping to pull off the stings !

  39. Sandra says:

    Beautiful. Simple. True. Sanctifying.

    Thank you.

  40. Annie says:

    Hi, I just finished reading ALL the comments before writing this in response, this is a great dialogue of communion, which helped me hear and see the struggle I believe is our pilgrimage and journey on earth. I have been to Medjugorje, which I only mention to describe how the terrain of the physical paths are sometimes smooth and other times very rocky and rows of pointy high rocks would discourage anyone from climbing. I use this as an example because I believe ALL who have commented here are on a path, and only God, the final Judge knows where and which one we are on. I am not going to quote Scripture and leave where this can be found, but I know in my heart, I hear Jesus say to me, “Bear with one another, and keep the faith, and keep your eyes on Me.” I believe in our struggle, joys and triumphs we are on our journey and pray we ALL will meet in heaven. God bless,

  41. Jim says:

    Wow. This is like a 2 week retreat. I’m on day two. Thanks for the challenging and profitable thoughts.

    • Patricia l. Coyne says:

      YI found this to be very interesting reading. I have had 26 years of Catholic Education and took every course the Catholic Church had to offer, wonderful theologians at Loyola Marymount. First, through my Catholic Education, I whole hardily believe in Universal Salvation. Christ died on the cross for ALL THE SINS of the world. He was the suffering servant, the omnipotence of total and complete love for all mankind. God new us before we were born and has counted every hair on our head. We are to be OPEN, As true disciples and live in love and hope for all people. He came for all of us sinners in order that we may have eternal salvation. We will live with him and in him
      for all eternity after this short life is done. He asks us to have trust and a relationship with him. We must take the bible as a whole, never to pick a verse out of context and interpret it. The Church had the authority that explains how we are to read the revealed word of God. The words of scripture were written before Christ approximately 3500B.C. and the New Testament, all written by man, translated from Greek many times over. Each part of the New Testament was written to a certain community to relay a particular message concerning the problems at that time. It was never meant to be taken literally by word or out of context. We can never pick a page and interpret a verse of what it means for us today. We must put ourselves in that era of peoples, their thinking and what the message means to us today. Remember it was written by men, inspired by God, always meant as a book of faith, never historical or scientific book. It was written to the Jews or Gentiles regarding the message to be revealed and understood. Never believe in the exact word written on a page but look beyond the words for the true words that have a message for us to understand, to take into our hearts and to live it and to become the disciples of that word. Remember, that Christ through His Father and Holy Spirit came for all cultures, faiths, nationalities, all mankind. Now many believe differently than we do but we are all called to be open disciples of the Word. We, on fath, believe that through no fault of their own the do not believe in a a Jesus but see him as a prophet or not believe at all. Here is where our faith takes over, only God takes over, not us, playing God. We do not know how God really works and how he saves us. Could there be a conversion one minute before death, or one minute after death. He, alone, is God and we can never imitate His judgements, that is what faith is all about, that which we do not know or do not see. This is the meaning of Faith. We must have a good understanding of the Old Testament before we can truly understand the New Testament.The different types of writings, the yahwist, elohist, priestly and deuteronomic, are the primary sources or traditions of the first five five books of the Old Testament. We can find a good loving God in the Old Testament however the people themselves saw him as a vengeful God and made their own interpretations. However, look and see how God protected them all the way through to the promised land.
      I, as a steady and loving Catholic see John of the Cross and some, if not most, of his writings good but the church has come a long way since his writings and even today look at the Bible differently than they looked during his era. We can only see our dear precious God as a loving, compassionate, forgiving God, one that has no recollection of our past sins. He is one that says, when you have fallen as he did on Calvary, pick up your cross and start all over again, repent of your sins and be clean. Christ remembers nothing of our past sins, if we come to Him in love and repentance. As for the rest of the world God will take care of them, not us, and always in a loving way. Accept and love all people at all times of your life. Read “Everything Belongs” by Richard Rohr. Get a good commentary for your Catholic Bible and interpretation such as The Collegeville Commentary, easy to understand. Signed, Patricia Coyne. Also, a hint, studying world religions is very interesting and you can see a great truth in Catholicism, also truths in all religions of the world. Thank you for presenting this to me, John of the Cross, however, I can see much of an old church interpretation coming out his writings and realize how we are growing more and more with passing time and more wisdom.

      D
      Poke

  42. Mechelle says:

    WOW!

    All I can say is WOW. I really needed that. It is so hard to keep my eyes focused on eternity when the here and now is glaring me in the face.

    Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to do this.

    Mechelle

  43. James says:

    Thank you for this article and the insightful comments. I am not a Catholic, however the article definitely pointed out something that has been bothering me for a long time with the Protestant message. I’ve been through a lot of storms in my life financially, spiritually, emotionaly and with my health. To be honest, I am pretty fed up with the pat, shallow, “all’s well, God loves you” message I have recieved when I needed help.
    It was either that, or condemnation as though there must be something wrong with my relationship with God and that was why I was going through so many struggles.
    Lately I had to quit listening to my favorite Christian radio station that I stayed tuned to for years because all I heard was that everything was going to be allright, Jesus loves me (He does and I need to know this and be reassured of this daily), and all about the sweet bye and bye and when we all get to heaven, and of course the “pre-tribulation rapture” to escape seven years of bad luck,when I really needed to be reminded of the terrors of hell and the seriousness of spending eternity in such a place, and the importance of truly repenting of sin and giving myself to the Lord.
    This article has been a breath of fresh air for me, to know that trials and troubles are part and parcel of life, not something to run from, but to seek the face of God to endure them.
    Grace and thanks,
    James

  44. Patricia l. Coyne says:

    I found this to be very interesting reading. I have had 26 years of Catholic Education and took every course the Catholic Church had to offer, wonderful theologians at Loyola Marymount. First, through my Catholic Education, I whole hardily believe in Universal Salvation. Christ died on the cross for ALL THE SINS of the world. He was the suffering servant, the omnipotence of total and complete love for all mankind. God new us before we were born and has counted every hair on our head. We are to be OPEN, As true disciples and live in love and hope for all people. He came for all of us sinners in order that we may have eternal salvation. We will live with him and in him
    for all eternity after this short life is done. He asks us to have trust and a relationship with him. We must take the bible as a whole, never to pick a verse out of context and interpret it. The Church had the authority that explains how we are to read the revealed word of God. The words of scripture were written before Christ approximately 3500B.C. and the New Testament, all written by man, translated from Greek many times over. Each part of the New Testament was written to a certain community to relay a particular message concerning the problems at that time. It was never meant to be taken literally by word or out of context. We can never pick a page and interpret a verse of what it means for us today. We must put ourselves in that era of peoples, their thinking and what the message means to us today. Remember it was written by men, inspired by God, always meant as a book of faith, never historical or scientific book. It was written to the Jews or Gentiles regarding the message to be revealed and understood. Never believe in the exact word written on a page but look beyond the words for the true words that have a message for us to understand, to take into our hearts and to live it and to become the disciples of that word. Remember, that Christ through His Father and Holy Spirit came for all cultures, faiths, nationalities, all mankind. Now many believe differently than we do but we are all called to be open disciples of the Word. We, on fath, believe that through no fault of their own the do not believe in a a Jesus but see him as a prophet or not believe at all. Here is where our faith takes over, only God takes over, not us, playing God. We do not know how God really works and how he saves us. Could there be a conversion one minute before death, or one minute after death. He, alone, is God and we can never imitate His judgements, that is what faith is all about, that which we do not know or do not see. This is the meaning of Faith. We must have a good understanding of the Old Testament before we can truly understand the New Testament.The different types of writings, the yahwist, elohist, priestly and deuteronomic, are the primary sources or traditions of the first five five books of the Old Testament. We can find a good loving God in the Old Testament however the people themselves saw him as a vengeful God and made their own interpretations. However, look and see how God protected them all the way through to the promised land.
    I, as a steady and loving Catholic see John of the Cross and some, if not most, of his writings good but the church has come a long way since his writings and even today look at the Bible differently than they looked during his era. We can only see our dear precious God as a loving, compassionate, forgiving God, one that has no recollection of our past sins. He is one that says, when you have fallen as he did on Calvary, pick up your cross and start all over again, repent of your sins and be clean. Christ remembers nothing of our past sins, if we come to Him in love and repentance. As for the rest of the world God will take care of them, not us, and always in a loving way. Accept and love all people at all times of your life. Read “Everything Belongs” by Richard Rohr. Get a good commentary for your Catholic Bible and interpretation such as The Collegeville Commentary, easy to understand. Signed, Patricia Coyne. Also, a hint, studying world religions is very interesting and you can see a great truth in Catholicism, also truths in all religions of the world. Thank you for presenting this to me, John of the Cross, however, I can see much of an old church interpretation coming out his writings and realize how we are growing more and more with passing time and more wisdom.

    D
    Poke

  45. Patricia l. Coyne says:

    To John,
    Yes, we are called to love all men without exception, sounds foolish and crazy. However, we are all sinners and no one is an exception even the very worst of sinners who did the most horrific sins. Perhaps in our humanness we find it quite impossible to do this, forgive sins, God understands our heart. He is Divine and looks at things differently then we ever could do. I remember taking a course “is Hitler saved”, a very interesting course. So much came to light in this class. It really makes one think. Of course, we do not know. I personally do not believe in hell. I think for many tortured soles here on earth, either in prison, unjustly, very ill suffering people, many that have no one etc. I believe Hell can be here. I know many priests who preach from the altar there is no hell from a totally loving God. Also, when people speak on the fear of God, that is taken out of context, it means Awe of God, not fear. God is above all we could ever imagine. This spirit of total love for all his creation. Nice reading what you wrote.

  46. NinaBG says:

    I wish more priests would proclaim the simple truths like this, loudly and often. Thank you, Monsignor!

  47. Michael Ryan says:

    26 years of “Catholic education”, and we get this: “I personally do not believe in hell.”

    And who cares about such “personal” opinions, especially when there is nothing “Catholic” about it?

    It would appear that we went to different schools together :-)

    For the person who states there is no Hell, that there “[c]ould there be a conversion [at] death” actually means “there WILL be a conversion at death (no exceptions), even for “the wicked and slothful servants”; after all, “God is love” and “I”, the apparent arbiter of all truth, “whole hardily believe in Universal Salvation”.

    All of tradition and the Catechism of the Catholic Church beg to differ (numbered CCC references removed):

    1022 Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, — or immediate and everlasting damnation.

    1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: “He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.”

    1034 Jesus often speaks of “Gehenna” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he “will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,” and that he will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!”

    1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

    1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

    “Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth.'”

    But, apparently, that’s just the Church’s “opinion” and some “educated” Catholics think they know better. So, at the final judgment our Lord will never actually say to anyone “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!”; or, if He does, He’ll follow with “Just kidding!”

    When it comes to understanding Scripture “as it is written” and as the Church has always understood it, It doesn’t surprise us then when sentimental universal salvationists tell us (in effect) that Pope Leo XIII (Providentissimus Deus), Pope St. Pius X (Lamentabili Sane), Pope Benedict XV (Spiritus Paraclitu) Pope Pius XII (Divino Afflante Spiritu and Humani Generis), and VCII ( Dei Verbum) and all of tradition had no idea what they were talking about because the New Testament “was never meant to be taken literally” as historical and inerrant truth; oh no, we must “look beyond the words for the true words that have a message for us to understand”, you know, the “true message” conveyed to us by “modern scripture scholars” who end up doubting and even denying or the “hard sayings” as well as the miracles of Christ – to include the literal bodily Resurrection of Christ.

    But then again, Loyola Marymount probably forgot to cover (or simply dismissed) these Magisterial pronouncements on Sacred Scriptures, antiquated as they are … for “we” now know better, don’t we.

    What about the traditional and dogmatic understanding of Original sin? Fahgettaboutit!

    We are all Pelagians now where every soul has a natural and inherent right to salvation.

    Time for a “re-education”, don’t you think?

  48. Michael Ryan says:

    Please excuse the rather caustic tone of my last post. I guess I’ve heard “Hell does not exist” one too many times from Catholics who really should know better. But, sadly, such is the state of a modern “Catholic education”, at least in certain circles.

    There is hope, however … see for example Ralph Martin’s “Will Many Be Saved?” The subtitle is “What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization”.

    Martin is a theology professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary and holds an S.T.D. in systematic theology from the Angelicum, the University of St. Thomas, in Rome. As Martin says, Lumen Gentium 16, when speaking about the possibility of salvation for those who have not heard the Gospel, must be read in its entirely, and with tradition. The oft neglected passage (LG 16) comes at the end, and says:

    “But very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and served the world rather than the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:21,25). Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair. Hence to procure the glory of God and the salvation of all these, the Church, mindful of the Lord’s command, ‘preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mk. 16:16), takes zealous care to foster the missions.”

  49. Glenn says:

    JMJ
    To Patricia I. Coyne:
    Dear Patricia, I read your comments a couple days ago, and had to wait a while so as not to sound too harsh. Fortunately, today is the Feast of Christ the King. May the Holy Ghost help me.

    First of all, it sounds like you wasted 26 years, “..taking every course the Church offers…” since it seems either to have had little effect, or perhaps you only took those courses that promote the new modernist approach to what used to be Catholicism. You have embraced several propositions that have been officially condemend by the Church, and I pray you will repent and come back to Catholicism.

    At the bottom of one of your notes, I realized why, when you recomment reading books by Richard Rohr, who claims equality between budda and Jesus, not to mention all the silliness he has promoted all these years to draw people out of the Catholic Church into what amounts to neo-paganism (as some protestants also call him-with good reason).

    I have little interest in how many children you had, or still have, but I would be interested in knowing how many still attend Mass every Sunday and holyday. That said, if I had any small children, I wouldn’t let them within 25 miles of you, if you were talking, for fear of them leaving the Church, for the “church of nice,” or no church.

    I am literally amazed how you know so much more than all those old saints, Fathers and theologeans, because we know so much better, today. Can you find one scintilla of evidence than any men are any smarter or wiser than they were after leaving the Garden of Eden? Reminds me of a quote from Bp Sheen; “There are no new ideas, only old errors with new names. Also, reminds me of the same excuse being used by homosexualists, when trying to negate St Paul’s comments about, “…men lying with men…” He just didn’t have the knowledge we have today. I’d suggest, rather than reading more paganism by Richard Rohr, you read any book by Alphonsus De Liguori, and realize, he knew much more than you, and take some of his advice. That you have heard many priest teach from the pulpit that there is no Hell, does not negate reality. If you continue on the path you are advocating, you will be forced to believe it.

    You have shown your contempt for Scripture, and made quite clear, you have no confidence that the Bible is the inerrent Word of God, so I guess you have some other reason for reading it? Is it just a little presumptuous that you tell people, “Never believe in the exact word written on a page but look beyond the words for the true words that have a message for us to understand, to take into our hearts and to live it and to become the disciples of that word.”? Become disciples of what word? You’ve already said it’s not useful, and probably wrong. Make up our own “scripture” like you seem wont to do? “…never historical or scientific book.” Really? Really? Just what is it you base your “faith” upon?

    “Also, when people speak on the fear of God, that is taken out of context, it means Awe of God, not fear.” I guess that is out of context too, that the Apostles just didn’t have our great wisdom? Poor fools just didn’t know the right word to use.
    JMJ
    Glenn

  50. Patricia l. Coyne says:

    Be sure to take every verse from the bible as a whole. We cannot pick a verse from anywhere in the bible and directly apply it to ourselves, this is a big misunderstanding of Catholic Scripture. God loves us unconditionally. He died on the cross for all the sins of the world. We are called each day to live the Gospel message in love. We must acknowledge our sins before God and repent of our sins. For those that so not know God, or have other beliefs only God will be their judge in his omnipotent love. We cannot play God. Each of us are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, that means everyone as we do not judge. Love God with your whole heart, our whole soul and our whole mind. We , as Catholics we believe in Universal Salvation, God wants everyone to be with Him for all eternity. He alone will judge all people. Patricia

    Our Dear Lord, came for sinners, to love them, fill them with all his Grace, forgives our sins and bring us to everlasting salvation. He, forgave the prostitute, the man on the cross, the tax collector, the prodigal son and many more. He is unconditional love, died on the cross for each one of us. He asks us to love him with all our hearts and to live as active disciples of Christ. We must live and do as he did. He fed first, before he preached love of all mankind. Thank God, I believe in a totally loving God, a true disciple, one who tries very hard to live a life of faith, something which is very very hard however God will give us His free gift of Grace which strengthens us. All we have to do is call on God for His help. Do not get caught up in Hell and Damnation, that is the work of the evil one. Patricia

    Thank you, God loves each one of us more than we could ever understand, after all he died on the cross for each and every one of us in the world today. Jesus, preached love and forgiveness. He asks us to have a personal relationship with him for all those who know and understand him. Live in love of all neighbors and forgiveness of all. God will be God and take care of all those that we may be concerned about. His justice is not the same as our justice, for He is a supreme being, one of total Love. Thank God I am a Catholic and believe in the totality of Gods love. Patricia

    Amen, so right and so beautiful. Pray always and ask for all the beautiful gifts of the Holy Spirit, so we can be another Jesus here on earth.

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